Mario Balotelli, who plays for the professional soccer team Brescia in Italy’s Serie A league, threatened to walk off the field during a match against Hellas Verona on Sunday in, Verona, Italy. It was after he heard monkey chants coming from the crowd.
It happened a little after the second half got underway, and at one point during the play the 29-year-old striker picked up the ball and kicked it into the stands. Then as Balotelli was attempting to walk off the pitch, he was stopped by players from both teams, as well as officials.
Afterward, as part of a new protocol that’s been established when racist treatment occurs, an announcement was made that the match would be canceled if it continued. It then resumed after being paused for several minutes, and Balotelli scored after he continued.
He then posted a clip of the incident to his Instagram page on Sunday and thanked those who supported him. He also blasted the people who “deny the evidence” about the chanting.
One of those people is Hellas Verona’s coach Ivan Juric, who said he didn’t hear any racist chants.
“Racists make me sick, but today I didn’t hear anything,” stated Juric. “I heard a lot of whistles, the classic kind. A lot of provocation, but I heard nothing racist. It’s a lie … I didn’t hear [them], let’s not talk bulls—.”
And Brescia’s coach Eugenio Corini, who was fired after the match, commented as well.
“If the referee decided to suspend the match and ask for that announcement to be made something must have happened,” he said. “Honestly, I was far away and I didn’t hear anything.”
In the end, Brescia fell to Hellas Verona 2-1.
Racist treatment has been a huge problem over the years in European soccer, and what happened to Balotelli has become extremely commonplace.
Last month, for example, Black players for England’s soccer team were on the receiving end of racist chants and Nazi symbols from Bulgaria’s fans.
And in September, Romelu Lukaku of the Italian team Inter Milan posted a letter to Instagram and said something has to be done about the racist behavior. He posted the message after Cagliari Calcio’s fans yelled monkey noises at him.